Hans Von Bülow: A Life and Times

By Alan Walker | Go to book overview

Berlin, 1855–1864:
II: Marriage to Cosima

For me Cosima is superior to all women…

—Bülow to Liszt1


I

During his first turbulent years in Berlin, Bülow’s private life had undergone a profound change. In July 1855, barely four months after Franziska von Bülow had joined him in the Prussian capital, the household was transformed by the arrival of Liszt’s two daughters, Blandine and Cosima, who took up residence there as well. Blandine was nineteen years old and Cosima was two years her junior. They were alive with energy and humour, and they filled the apartments on Wilhelmstrasse with their laughter. The active minds and boisterous behaviour of these two young women posed a constant threat to the strict domestic routine which Franziska liked to impose on her son. Bülow was entranced by both girls, and referred to them affectionately as ‘the Erlking’s daughters’. At Liszt’s request he gave them piano lessons, and was particularly impressed with Cosima’s accomplished playing; she already performed the standard sonatas of Beethoven and a variety of compositions by Chopin with confidence.2 But

1. BBLW, p. 67

2. Cosima’s disposition as a pianist remains an unheralded aspect of her career. Before coming to Berlin she had been a piano student in Paris of Liszt’s old colleague François Seghers, and during her teens had appeared at a number of soirées, playing difficult pieces by Weber and Hummel. She took especial pleasure in writing to her father that she had embarked on a study of Hummel’s B minor piano concerto, a work which she knew had been one of Liszt’s own war-horses during his youth. There was even talk of Cosima becoming a professional musician, and her mother, Marie d’Agoult, was convinced that she could have become a second Clara Schumann, but Liszt resisted the idea.

-95-

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